It won't be in stores until this summer, but at $199, the Nano Puff Hoody from Patagonia is worth putting on your gear radar right now.
I have been wearing an early-release version of the lightweight hooded jacket for the past two months. The windproof and water-resistant piece is great for cool spring days. It also functions as a cozy layer itself under a shell jacket in winter temps.
For wilderness pursuits, I like the jacket's packability. The Nano Puff, which employs PrimaLoft One insulation, stuffs into its own chest pocket for transport. It sits in a backpack as a 14-ounce bundle the size of a cantaloupe, ready to be used in the wilderness when the temps drop.
I use jackets like this almost year round. They are light enough not to burden your pack. In the mountains, they are great for sleeping in or wearing on cool spring or fall mornings.
Patagonia uses a light recycled polyester for the face fabric. A DWR finish lets water bead and run off the face, though don't expect to wear the jacket in the rain.
There are zippered hand-warmer pockets and an internal zippered chest pocket. The quilted pattern keeps insulation in place and promotes "durability and longevity," as the company puts it. I hope they're right. I want to keep my Nano Puff for the long haul.
--Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.